Rex Ingram

Rex Ingram: Visionary Director of the Silent Screen

RUTH BARTON
Series: Screen Classics
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qhm46
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    Rex Ingram
    Book Description:

    Noted for his charisma, talent, and striking good looks, director Rex Ingram (1893−1950) is ranked alongside D. W. Griffith, Marshall Neilan, and Erich von Stroheim as one of the greatest artists of the silent cinema. Ingram briefly studied sculpture at the Yale University School of Art after emigrating from Ireland to the United States in 1911; but he was soon seduced by the new medium of moving pictures and abandoned his studies for a series of jobs in the film industry. Over the next decade, he became one of the most popular directors in Hollywood, directing smash hits such as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), The Prisoner of Zenda (1922), and Scaramouche (1923).

    In Rex Ingram, Ruth Barton explores the life and legacy of the pioneering filmmaker, following him from his childhood in Dublin to his life at the top of early Hollywood's A-list and his eventual self-imposed exile on the French Riviera. Ingram excelled in bringing visions of adventure and fantasy to eager audiences, and his films made stars of actors like Rudolph Valentino, Ramón Novarro, and Alice Terry -- his second wife and leading lady. With his name a virtual guarantee of box office success, Ingram's career flourished in the 1920s despite the constraints of an increasingly regulated industry and the hostility of Louis B. Mayer, who regarded him as a dangerous maverick.

    Barton examines the virtuoso director's career and controversial personal life -- including his conversion to Islam, the rumors surrounding his ambiguous sexuality, and the circumstances of his untimely death. This definitive biography not only restores the visionary filmmaker to the spotlight but also provides an absorbing look at the daring and exhilarating days of silent-era Hollywood.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4711-6
    Subjects: History, Performing Arts, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Author’s Note on Sources
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    This is a book about a brief moment in film history and one of the individuals responsible for it. For a few all-too-short years, as cinema developed from a turn-of-the-century fairground attraction and before it became a full-fledged corporate enterprise, Hollywood drew to it some of the most talented individuals of the day. Fired by the idea that the movies might just be the “seventh art,” they determined to test the boundaries of this new medium and to create films that would be the artistic masterpieces of their generation.¹

    One of these visionaries was the Irishman Rex Ingram. At the...

  5. 1 Childhood in Ireland
    (pp. 5-20)

    On a wet blustery winter’s day in Dublin, Reginald Ingram Montgomery Hitchcock, later to be known as Rex Ingram, or Reggie by his family, entered the world. The new baby, born on Wednesday, 18 January 1893, was the first child of twenty-five-year-old Francis Ryan Montgomery Hitchcock and Kathleen Hitchcock (née Ingram), who was two years younger than her husband.

    Number 58 Grosvenor Square, the Hitchcocks’ home, was in Rathmines, Dublin’s largest suburb. The house was a recent addition to this comfortable square of solid two-story red-bricked houses—a listing of the streets of Rathmines from 1891 indicates that in that...

  6. 2 New York Bohemia and the Lure of the Movies
    (pp. 21-40)

    Although he had a younger brother in the United States, Rex’s father had not kept in touch with his family. The man who greeted Rex as theCelticberthed was Bert Gordon Hitchcock, a director of the New Haven Railroad. He had made contact many years previously with the Reverend Francis Hitchcock, wondering if they were related. They weren’t, they agreed, but the correspondence between the two continued. On hearing of Rex’s plans, Bert Hitchcock insisted that the young man stay with him and his wife. Reverend Hitchcock, who had been dreading the idea of his older son arriving a...

  7. 3 Rex Ingram, Director
    (pp. 41-70)

    On leaving Fox, Rex made his way across the Hudson River to Fort Lee, New Jersey, where the World Film Company was based. He had his eye on working with Clara Kimball, who had just decamped from Vitagraph to Jules Brulatour’s Peerless Pictures, the jewel in World Film’s crown and home to numerous expatriate filmmakers, including Maurice Tourneur. It may have been that hint of European cosmopolitanism that attracted him, or it may just have been opportunism. He knew that Kimball’s husband, Jimmy Young, was unhappy with watching Tourneur work with his wife, and so he was proposing that they...

  8. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  9. 4 Apocalypse at Metro
    (pp. 71-88)

    In January of 1920, Rex celebrated his twenty-seventh birthday. For the first time since his return from the military service, he was in secure employment and, although he never wasted an opportunity to mention how his heart really lay in sculpting, he was fast making a name for himself in the film industry. He was making money too; afterShore Acres, Metro raised his salary to $1,000 weekly.¹ Still, there was little in his career to suggest that he would soon be hailed as one of the foremost directors of the decade, if not of the silent era.

    It began...

  10. 5 Conquering Metro
    (pp. 89-98)

    If there was one lingering cloud on the horizon ofThe Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, it was the relationship between the film’s star and its director. “He didn’t let me do what I wanted,” Valentino complained to Robert Florey. “He seemed to think more about his compositions and his lighting effects than about my performance, and that sometimes annoyed me.”¹ Florey, who knew Valentino well, guessed that he would have hated being corrected by Rex on set in front of other people and tended to sulk when this happened.

    Relations between the two men further deteriorated as they launched...

  11. 6 Swashbucklers and Other Romances
    (pp. 99-124)

    Metro’s next project for Rex wasThe Prisoner of Zenda, a rip-roaring swashbuckler based on Anthony Hope’s best-selling 1894 novel of the same name. It was Hope who invented the mythical kingdom of Ruritania, and so popular did his series of novels set there become that they and their successors and imitators became known as “Ruritanian Romances.”The Prisoner of Zendawas the first in the series and already contained all the ingredients that were to set Victorian hearts aflutter.

    A glitch in the legitimacy of the family tree sees the idle aristocrat Rudolf Rassendyll take a trip to the...

  12. 7 Escape to the Desert
    (pp. 125-140)

    In his later career, Rex would be accused of losing touch with Hollywood; no such charge could be leveled againstThe Arab(1924). The film is a little-disguised riposte to Valentino’s 1921 triumphThe Sheik, directed by George Melford. In the place of Valentino, Rex cast Ramón Novarro in the title role. The Valentino film is partially set in Biskra, Algeria;The Arabwas shot in Biskra and in Tunisia; both films have at their heart a romance between a handsome Arab man and a European woman; and both revel in the visual opportunities presented by Arab costuming, interiors, and...

  13. 8 Escape to Nice
    (pp. 141-158)

    On 1 October 1924, Rex set sail for Europe. Increasingly his heart was in North Africa, and so he determined to find a workplace that was as close to there as was practicable. He had agreed on Nice with Louis B. Mayer, but his stop was Paris, where he briefly considered a studio but dropped the idea. Instead he spent some time looking up old friends, catching up on the latest exhibitions, and castingMare Nostrum. One of the exhibitions was by a young American artist, Harry Lachman, at the Galerie Hernheim. Rex dropped by and purchased one of Lachman’s...

  14. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  15. 9 The Magician of the Riviera
    (pp. 159-178)

    If to the French press Rex and his entourage breathed the life of Hollywood into the Victorine studios, in fact his working methods were eccentric and autocratic in a manner that would never have been tolerated in the newly organized industry back in Los Angeles. In the mornings, he liked to toss a ball around on the beach, “La Grande Bleue,” or swim, putting in a couple of hours of good exercise. By now Rex was so well known that eyes would turn in his direction as he strolled down to the sea, and aspirant stars made it their business...

  16. 10 Final Films
    (pp. 179-194)

    On 13 January 1928,Tit Bitscarried what was ostensibly a syndicated interview with Rex under the title “Famous Director to Make No More Films.” The headline proceeded to quote him as saying “I am sick of Hollywood” before announcing “my reason for turning Mohammedan.” On Hollywood, Rex was purported to have said, “Neither God nor Allah is accepted in the homes in Hollywood—they walk there, but are not received; for there the devil reigns paramount.” The article also suggested that Rex and Alice’s marriage was in trouble, not least because as a “Mohammedan,” after he went to Paradise...

  17. 11 Sculptor, Writer, Artist, Traveler
    (pp. 195-214)

    In 1933 Rex announced in an interview in Paris that he had abandoned cinema and converted to Islam. He told reporters that, since his first visit to Africa eleven years ago, he had been fascinated by the philosophy behind Islam:

    Before the Crash, in America everyone wanted to make a million and to retire, and many managed to do so, even if at the same time they aged prematurely and their final years were unhappy and neurotic. For the 350 million Mohammedans who live by the law of the Prophet, economic problems, as we conceive of them in the West,...

  18. 12 The Life, the Legacy
    (pp. 215-220)

    Rex Ingram was fifty-seven years old when he died. Working on his new film in Nice, Max de Vaucorbeil could not get over the news. He went up to their old studios and found it hard to look at them and to see the villa where they had been so happy for so many years. Men who had worked with Rex soon came over to him to share their grief at his passing. For them, Max wrote in a sympathy letter to Frank, Rex would “always remain like a god.”¹

    Lee Lawrie too was heartbroken to hear of his student’s...

  19. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 221-224)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 225-248)
  21. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 249-252)
  22. Index
    (pp. 253-262)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-264)